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Goudge Hears Dr Huyer

January 11, 2008 permalink

The Goudge Inquiry is finally getting to the heart of the matter: the Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect (SCAN) unit of the Hospital for Sick Children, formerly headed by Dr Dirk Huyer. While the number of dead children, primary focus of the inquiry, is small, the number of parents of live children falsely accused of abuse is large. Out of the hundreds of cases reported to Dufferin VOCA of children taken from their parents on pretext of child abuse, we have encountered several in which Dr Huyer inserted his phony expertise. There was never any effort to investigate, only to corroborate accusations. We have a court transcript in which he states under oath that by the time he gets a case, child abuse has already been established.



Child abuse detection team placed under the microscope at inquiry

KIRK MAKIN, From Thursday's Globe and Mail, January 10, 2008 at 5:54 AM EST

TORONTO — A sombre atmosphere prevailed at Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children on Jan. 30, 1992, when a team of 15 doctors, prosecutors and pathologist Charles Smith met in a boardroom to sift through the ashes of a murder prosecution gone wrong.

The group was smarting from the recent acquittal of a 16-year-old babysitter - identified only as S.M. - accused of murdering a child in her care. In reaching his decision, Ontario Court Judge Patrick Dunn had soundly rejected findings of foul play by Dr. Smith and a special hospital unit known as the Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect team.

Some participants wasted little time circling the wagons, according to minutes of the meeting that were revealed for the first time yesterday at the Goudge commission.

"Judge has rep in family court - known to be strange," one notation said. "Not used to criminal standards."

"Family court judge at bottom of heap," another said. "Acceptable to say we disagree with judge's judgment ... No precedential value re. medical evidence."

Inquiry counsel Linda Rothstein yesterday confronted two doctors who attended the meeting - Dirk Huyer and Katy Driver - and asked if it was they who denounced Judge Dunn.

"It wasn't me," Dr. Driver testified.

"It wasn't me, because I didn't know Justice Dunn at the time," Dr. Huyer said.

Regardless of who uttered the comments, however, the incident drove home Ms. Rothstein's central theme - that detecting and prosecuting child abuse had become a potentially worrisome crusade in the 1980s and 1990s.

As the probe into pathology errors that led to wrongful charges and convictions continued yesterday, it was the SCAN team's turn to come under the microscope.

While Dr. Smith's mistakes lie at the centre of the inquiry, he interacted regularly with the team - a unique unit established in 1973 to bring together doctors, social workers and psychologists to ferret out physical and sexual child abuse.

Dr. Huyer conceded yesterday that for many years, the SCAN unit had a bad reputation. He said that many staff members at Sick Kids viewed it with "distaste" because the team was involved in evidence-gathering, causing intense upset to parents whose children had just died, and precipitating seizure by child protection authorities.

"They were very reluctant to notify us [of potential abuse]," Dr. Huyer said. "They felt we were out to dig up child abuse."

As far back as 1985, at least one other Ontario Court judge - Peter Naismith - felt the same way.

In portions of a court ruling read by Ms. Rothstein yesterday, Judge Naismith threw out abuse charges against a child's parents and expressed serious concerns about "hearsay evidence, gossip and vague impressions" that were offered in testimony by members of the SCAN team.

"Sometimes, their objectivity seems to be undermined by their advocacy; their tendency to promote a theory, to sell it," Judge Naismith said.

However, Dr. Driver denied the charge yesterday. "I don't think that I or any member of the team went in with our minds made up," she testified. "It was never 'Aha! Here's another child being abused.' "

Dr. Huyer told the inquiry that while he believes the SCAN team has become more professional and does invaluable work, he used to worry that its name conveyed a false impression. He said that he decided at one point to hold a staff contest to create a more benign name for the unit, but never got around to it.

Source: Globe and Mail